Every morning is the same – a face appears in front of mine, followed by the biggest grin in the world, then a kiss, then those magical words “I love you daddy”.
OK… so sometimes that’s all preceded by shaking, prodding and “wake up daddy” (at the crack of dawn, I might add…), but you get the idea.
Then there are the times when he gets excited for bedtime because I’ll make up a story using the “story cube” app on my phone. As long as there’s a lock and a key and the story involves him on an adventure, he’s happy. That in turn makes me happy – I could’ve told the shortest, least inventive story in the world, but he always loves it, and I treasure those moments which are reserved for just the two of us. The more we make up stories together, the more I find myself looking for ways to make them exciting, but also to help them reinforce the security he has with us.
There are times, however, when he seems insecure, or at least, isn’t able to soothe himself. Times when his temper ramps up and we get towards a full meltdown. Times when he’s not got what he wanted, or has misinterpreted something that’s been said.
It’s during those times that I rediscover the truly unique gift we have – the connection that often helps reinforce our relationship. For it’s in those moments that I need to help my son rediscover calm, re-centre himself and resolve the issues.
Sometimes a tight hug and counting slowly backwards can help.
Sometimes it’s a case of asking “how high” he is, and how can we help bring him back down to earth.
Sometimes it’s sitting there taking a hammering and not reacting.
Sometimes it’s lying next to him with an open hand ready for him to hold.
Sometimes it gets too much and (to my shame) I have to leave the room.
On two recent occasions, something instinctive kicked in and I was able to calm him much quicker than in the past, using a unique gift – distraction, coupled with another – curiosity.
On the first he was screaming and got himself in a loop. When in that state the only thing to do is to wait until he’s calm again to resolve any issues. The usual techniques weren’t working, which is when I saw a possible solution out of the corner of my eye – a tally counter (one of those devices where you press a button and it counts e.g. the number of cars going past). I started clicking away quite quickly, and it got his attention. Within seconds he was looking around for the source of the noise and was calming down. He used the clicker a few times – seeing if he could press up to 100, by the end of which he was back down to earth. The really positive thing was that he recognised the counter as a way to calm himself down, so for the next few days he kept it in his sights in case he needed it again.
Cue the weekend, and he had a meltdown at my father-in-law’s. Again the usual techniques weren’t working, so I picked him up and carried him outside to the fish pond – taking him out of the environment that had caused him to get heated, and distracting him by counting the fish in the pond.
Distraction and curiosity won through in both instances, helping my son regulate himself and recognise how to bring himself down if needed. After both, he said “daddy, I was angry, and then I use the clicker/counted the fish and I came back down” (or words to that effect). It astounds me that, at 5, he recognises that, and pleases me immensely that I’ve been the one on these occasions to help him do so.
My son is a truly unique gift for me, and I hope he sees me the same way.